Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cell Phone Plans for Existing Cell Phones

Can I get cheap cell phone service for my existing cell phone?

Store sign for Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile
Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile Cell Phone Carriers offer Alternatives to the Major Carriers
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

I have an existing Blackberry cell phone on AT&T.  My 2 year contract ends in June and I will be the proud owner of a Blackberry cell phone.  Can I take advantage of the fact that I will have an existing cell phone that is paid for to get a lower cell phone bill?

The payment for a new cell phone is included in the contract plan when you sign up for service when you buy a cell phone.  For example if you get a $300 phone, you’ll pay $300 over 24 months at $12.50 per month to pay for the cost of the phone.

Since my phone is paid for, it seems like I should be able to find a plan that is about $12 per month cheaper.
If I go with a smaller carrier, I would prefer to have a no-contract plan in case I am not satisfied with the service or coverage.

My current monthly usage:

  • 100 minutes of voice calls
  • 150 texts including some with pictures
  • 100 Mb per month of data

I would be willing to give up data if I could save $20 per month or so.  I can use wi-fi instead of the cell network for data.  What options are available to get service for an existing cell phone?

Cell Phone Network Compatibility

One limitation of using your existing cell phone on a different network is compatibility.  GSM and CDMA are the major cell phone network types.  Your cell phone will be compatible with only one of these network types.

  • AT&T  and T-Mobile uses GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications)
  • Sprint, Verizon, and US Cellular use CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access)
  • Sprint has a "closed" list of ESN's so Verizon or US Cellular CDMA phones cannot be activated on Sprint network.

So my best bets among major carriers for an AT&T Blackberry are AT&T and T-Mobile.  There are also smaller carriers that use cell towers from the major carriers to provide service.  Some of these may be options as well.

Major Cell Phone Carriers

Following are highlights of offers from major cell phone carriers:


AT&T cell phones in store display
AT&T Store Display
Image source: Dr. Penny Pincher

  • $39.99 for 450 minutes voice
  • $20.00 for 300Mb data
  • $20.00 for unlimited texts

Expensive, but definitely compatible with my AT&T Blackberry.


Verizon Wireless store sign
Verizon Store Sign
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

  • $50 prepaid plan: unlimited voice, text, data on basic devices
  • Blackberry won’t qualify since it is a smart phone.  
  • I was not able to check the price for a smart phone plan on the website

As mentioned above, Verizon is not compatible with AT&T phones.


Sprint cell phone store sign
Sprint retail store
Image source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Option 1:

  • $39.95 450 minutes voice.
  • $5.00 add 300 messages

Option 2:

  • No-contract: $50/mo for unlimited voice, data and messages (on Sprint network)
  • $70 for smart phone plans

However Sprint network is not compatible with AT&T phones.


Bring your own phone plan: T-Mobile's website has links to help you unlock your phone if necessary.

  • $70 for unlimited voice, text, data.  
  • T-Mobile will sell you a SIM card to use in your existing phone
  • Family plans for $60 per line.

T-Mobile uses GSM like AT&T, so my old Blackberry may be compatible.
This may be a good deal if you use a lot of voice minutes or data, but I don't really need much.  I would like to find a plan for under $40 per month.  iWireless is a T-Mobile affiliate in Iowa and offers T-Mobile cell phone service.

U. S. Cellular

U. S. Cellular store sign
U.S. Cellular retail store
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

  • $50 for unlimited voice and text, 1GB data
  • $65 for unlimited voice and text, 2GB data
  • $35 for 400 minutes voice, 400 texts, 400 pics ($20 activation fee)

The U.S. Cellular website noted that pre-paid plans were not yet compatible with smart phones and indicated that must U.S. Cellular customer's phones would work with the pre-paid plans.  I didn't find information that indicated whether or not existing cell phones from other companies could be used.

Smaller Cell Phone Carriers

The smaller carriers use cell towers and infrastructure from the larger carriers to create their own plan offerings.

Boost Mobile

  • $60 unlimited talk and messaging, 2.5GB data
  • Payments shrink from $60 to $45 gradually as you make on-time payments
  • Service on Sprint network.

Sprint network is not compatible with AT&T phones, so this won't work for my AT&T Blackberry.


  • $40 unlimited talk, text, and data.  
  • First 500MB is at high speed 4G speed, then you get slower rate data for the rest of the month.  
  • You can pay $10 more to get 2.5GB of 4G data before it slows down.  
  • For $60 per month, you get unlimited 4G data.

It was not clear from the website whether I could use my 3G AT&T Blackberry on their service or not.


  • No contract plans, $50 for unlimited voice, messaging, and unlimited data, 1st 1GB at high speed
  • $60 +2.5GB high speed data
  • $70 5GB high speed data

The Cricket web site explains that existing phones can be flashed to Cricket service, but not all Cricket network features may work.

Page Plus Cellular

  • $12 plan with 250 minutes, 250 texts,  10MB data
  • $29.95 1200 min, 3000 texts, 250MB data

The Page Plus website says that only the small set of phones sold by Page Plus Cellular for use on their network is guaranteed to work.  So bringing an existing phone would be at your own risk.  The Page Plus Cellular phone prices range from $50 to $150.

The $12 plan sounds great…  I explored compatibility further and found that the following phones are compatible with Page Plus Cellular:

  • Page Plus
  • Alltel
  • Verizon
  • AMP’D

Unfortunately AT&T phones are not compatible on the Page Plus Cellular network,

Virgin Mobile

  • $35: 300 minutes, unlimited messaging, 2.5GB 4G data
  • $45: 1200 minutes, unlimited messaging, 2.5GB 4G data
  • $55: unlimited talk, unlimited messaging, 2.5GB 4G data

Uses Sprint network, so not compatible with my AT&T phone.
Also, the website says that you cannot use a phone from another network.

Straight Talk

  • Bring your own phone, keep your phone number
  • $45 unlimited data, talk, and text
  • $30 All you need plan:  1000 minutes, 1000 texts, 30Mb data
  • Bring a T-Mobile 4G phone and keep 4G service

Straight Talk services uses cell towers from several major carriers, so can support many types of phones including GSM phones like AT&T and T-mobile.  Straight Talk is a promising option if you have an existing cell phone and are looking for a good deal on cell phone service.

Recently, Straight Talk sim cards for AT&T are no longer sold in Walmart stores- you need to order these on-line.  Also, the Straight Talk website no longer talks of compatibility with AT&T phones- instead the description talks about compatibility with GSM phones.  This makes me nervous about future support for AT&T phones from Straight Talk.  Perhaps AT&T is realizing that AT&T customers are leaving AT&T to use the AT&T cell network through Straight Talk for half the cost.

Republic Wireless

  • Uses Sprint network and wi-fi to provide phone and data service
  • $19 and $29 unlimited plans with phone purchase

Republic Wireless use specific phone models for wi-fi service- their web site suggests the Motorola DEFY XT, so my AT&T Blackberry is not compatible.

Net10 Wireless

Net10 Wireless uses GSM networks, so is compatible with T-Mobile or AT&T phones.  The Net10 website says you can bring a T-Mobile compatible GSM phone, or an unlocked GSM phone that operates on compatible frequencies (850 and 1900 MHz).  You can purchase a Net10 standard or micro SIM card to get your phone on Net10 Wireless service.  Net10 has a $45 per month unlimited talk, text, and data plan renewable 30 days at a time that sounds promising.

Penny Pinching Tips

  • Cell phones and cell phone service are expensive- so choose wisely.  Pick the lowest cost phone and plan that meets your needs.
  • Cell phone network compatibility limits your ability to take your existing cell phone and move it to a different network
  • Some no-contract cell phone plans are likely compatible with your existing phone and may save you money
  • The $12 plan from Page Plus Cellular sounds promising, but you'll need an Alltel or Verizon phone
  • Straight Talk with a $45/month unlimited plan looks to be a good deal for my existing AT&T Blackberry phone and probably for existing phones from most other carriers as well
  • Net10 Wireless with a $45/month unlimited plan looks promising for T-Mobile and AT&T phones

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for giving information.
    According to your Article,I chose AT&T service.
    But my mobile is restricted by orange network.So i needed to unlock my mobile phone.Through the Google search i bought an unlocking service and i got free phone unlocking instructions from Now i never had any coverage problem in my new AT&T service plan.


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